There’s no doubt Colorado was the place to be this past New Years, and the three-night Umphrey’s McGee run at the Fillmore Auditorium was absolutely no exception. Night two of the stand featured plenty of bust-outs, sit-ins, and surprises that had the exuberant Denver crowd grooving from start to finish.
As Umphrey’s took the stage, the band greeted the crowd with a wave and immediately dove into “Flamethrower>Mulche’s Odyssey,” a segment that was largely dominated by lead guitarist Jake Cinninger’s complex and heavy guitar tone. Cinninger came out of the gates firing away, wasting no time as he flew up and down the scale during the band’s first jam of the night. After coming back down to earth, Umphrey’s segued into “Miami Virtue,” a song that made its first appearance back in 2011, and has since become a staple in the band’s repertoire. At the roots of the song, the driving forces of drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag mixed with the heavy-hitting basslines provided by Ryan Stasik bring the song to life and create a melody impossible not to dance along to. Once again, the band jammed Virtue to near the 14-minute mark, however instead of shredding dual-guitar solos by Cinninger and Bayliss, Umphrey’s kept the vibes slow-paced and melodic. Led by Joel Cummins on keys/synthesizers, the dance floor swayed and grooved the entire length of the song and Virtue proved to be an early highlight to the first set.
At this point in the set the crowd was feeling loose, while the band had never sounded so tight. The collection of music to come featured a nearly 10-minute “Plunger,” which had “Day Nurse” and “No Comment” sandwiched in between. Nurse had a very spacey tone to it, turning the frenzied crowd into a dance party, while rhythm guitarist Brendan Bayliss dropped knowledge and let his voice command the crowd during No Comment. Bayliss dedicated the final song of the set, “Dump City” to Justin Bieber, stating they heard a rumor he was retiring and if so, he needed to come back because Bayliss was a “Belieber”. The crowd laughed as the band took off once again and midway through the City jam, keyboardist Joel Cummins announced they were changing the name of the song to “Dumstaphunk City” for the night, as Ivan Neville joined the boys on stage for a funky collaboration. The Neville sit-in was funky and loose; the perfect way to head into set a quick set break and prepare for what was sure to be a monstrous second set.
The 6-song second set featured all sorts of face-melting surprises, starting with saxophonist Joshua Redman taking the stage for the entirety of the set. There was instant chemistry as Redman’s sound meshed perfectly with Umphrey’s, and added depth to the overall energy of the second set. During “Der Bluten Kat>Amble On> Der Bluten Kat,” the band invited 12-year-old guitarist Jaden Carlson, a Boulder native, to come and take the place of Brendan Bayliss. She absolutely blew the crowd away with her guitar skills, and kept up Cinninger note for note, finishing the Bluten Kat jam on a high level. An interesting note about the track “Amble On,” it was only the third time Umphrey’s has played the song live, and is easily the most energetic version to date with Joshua Redman’s saxophone bringing so much to the table during the song.
Nearly all of the songs played in the second set broke the 10-minute mark, including a bombardment of compositions ranging from dark metal to uplifting melodies. Umphrey’s McGee concluded the second set with “River People,” a debut cover by Weather Report, which got a funked-out rendition. Once again, the work by saxophonist Joshua Redman on the track is superb, and makes the track stand out amongst the rest. After the debut the boys set their instruments down, only to re-appear once more for a “1348” encore to an already ecstatic Denver crowd. It was the end to a very experimental and open set, with a couple of guest appearances and some long jamming, what more could one Umphreak ask for? The Fillmore crowd thanked the band with an enormous round of applause, many of which would be returning in just a few nights for the epic conclusion of the three-night stand.